Help wanted

Down-on-its-luck country of 70+ million with prestigious pedigree looking for new leader. Military experience preferred for management of once easy-going but now increasingly restive population. Must have familiarity with strategic regional issues and diplomatic skills to help country play above its weight, flexibility in dealing with key supporters a plus (ideologues need not apply). Fund-raising skills a must. Challenges include keeping military-industrial complex, foreign patrons, business class, and general population (in that order) only moderately discontent. Bonuses include copious pageantry, sycophantic state press and ability to telecommute from glamorous Red Sea resort. Requirements include fancy foreign university degree (need not be legit), appearance of internet-savviness and the popular touch. Residents of governorates outside Menoufiya need not apply. Applications must receive stamp of approval from Washington and Riyadh. Discretion assured.

Humor aside, I think some people rather overstate the importance of the recent Osama Al Baz interview in which the (largely non-influential) presidential advisor says Mubarak would retire if he could find a successor. It just looks like typical Arab dictator drivel to me -- "I want to go, but this country can't do without me" bullshit that's used to keep people in power for 25 years. There is something else telling in the interview, though:

"He will remain, so long as he's able, capable and so on. But if he finds that there is another group of people, another person, who are willing to carry the torch, I have the feeling that he would welcome it," Baz said.

"It's not clear yet who can take over. Nobody can say, and definitely the president and his family are not thinking about succession. They don't think of Gamal taking over and he does not give himself more rights than other Egyptians," he added.
As I am in the camp of those who don't believe that that Gamal is the next president this does not surprise me. I do think that Gamal wants the job (or wanted it at some point). But the more important thing is that it highlights that the regime still has no public succession plan and probably no private one either.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.